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Consumer Products

Reactions: Overregulation of sunscreens, and remembering how to balance redox reactions

January 12, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 2


Letters to the editor

Overregulation of sunscreens

I was very concerned by the article “Cloudy Outlook for Sunscreen Market” in the Nov. 28, 2022, issue of C&EN (page 13). The danger of skin cancer and the benefits of sunscreens in preventing skin cancer are well known. These proven benefits must be weighed against the potential, unproven risks of sunscreens. It is impossible to prove that a substance is harmless for everyone. There are many pharmaceuticals with known side effects (that is, health risks), yet these are approved for use.

The US has become a society that does not know how to evaluate personal risk. We have abdicated that responsibility to government agencies whose goal is zero risk for consumer products. European regulators assume that consumers have at least some responsibility for their own well-being. The recent fiasco with baby formula is another example of regulators gone wild. It is impossible to prove that a large manufacturing facility is completely free of ubiquitous, natural bacteria.

These regulatory agencies have no real accountability to the public. Their heads are political appointees, often with no real subject matter expertise. The lower-level members are civil servants with the job security that guarantees. Regulatory agencies are where democracy dies. To quote Thomas Paine, “A body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

Stephen J. McGovern
Bear, Delaware

Illustration showing an ostrich guarding electron eggs from poachers who are near a truck marked "O2."
Credit: Aine Mallory
Fullerton College students created a mnemonic device for the abbreviation MOHe, which typically stands for "miscellaneous, oxygen, hydrogen, electrons."

Creative memory tool for balancing redox reactions

I teach Introduction to Chemistry at Fullerton College. When discussing balancing redox reactions, I introduced the abbreviation MOHe and asked if someone had an alternative mnemonic. I immediately received a response, “mother ostrich hiding eggs,” by Taylor Kliner, and a second student (Aine Mallory) volunteered to draw it. Please note the poachers, O2.

Michael Skinner
Huntington Beach, California



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